Telephony; What else does it bring with itself?

May be things aren’t the way I observed but nonetheless I must tell what is making me to even write so. I am seeing a lot of people around me spending hours entertaining  calls. Either they are answering calls or many a times are making calls to all different sort of people. And with an oxygenated penetration of mobile telephony, people aren’t simply making calls to all different sort of people; they are making calls from all different sort of locations as well. Finding people with earplugs and talking to gods and demons while they walk on road or virtually at any place, no matter how bizarre the place itself is, isn’t such a spectacle any more. No doubt we are connected better than ever before perhaps in the history of human race but what about the clarity of communication. What is it that drives these conversations? Does it compose of statements followed by further set of statements or by an endless clarification of the anything being spoken of? Does it include more of confusion or clarity? Although I have no access to what people talk about on their phones but with some inquiry and with couple of persons who shared their experiences of talking at length, few interesting things seem to be emerging.

It is off course subjective to an extent to see a connection between clarity of communication and the communication medium i.e. mobile telephony in our case. However the agencies, the people who are talking, which drive communication do have an effect on the clarity of communication. Whether one is able to communicate to the other, does depend on one’s ability to articulate his thoughts. No doubt about this but the case doesn’t simply rest here. What about the loss of signals during a mobile conversation or a sudden disappearance of battery power? What about the continuous noise that disrupts our talk sometimes? And what about an accidental push on the ‘red button’ when you are trying to switch between your ears? All of these and similar others random factors do affect our perception of the caller or of the subject being talked of. I have come across people testifying how they have been mistaken for someone who is arrogant or egoistic when for reasons, similar to the ones mentioned above, a call broke at some critical point in the conversation. And even when they resumed the call back, how hard they had a time clarifying their stand or explaining the reason for the ‘break’ in communication. This might happen between two people fixing a deal on phone, or between duos who are on the verge of resolving a crisis. And this might be worse between a couple.

Apparently none other than script writers or storytellers have made a note of any such behavior, truly spontaneous and random, but many a times critical. We can accept this! We can term these as ‘misunderstandings’  and can assume that these have ever existed between people, and can conclude that communication technology can’t really handle it. However I do feel somewhere that technology isn’t simply mean to enable communication between peers but rather it is there to sustain it in an intended form; in a form which humans decide.

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On Schooling

For days and days it has been occurring to me to reflect back on my school days and on the education I had. The curriculum included natural sciences and languages along with slighter glimpses of other subjects, resigned to be termed as extracurricular. One can look at the curriculum and can be best assured to say that everything ought to be known is well there. But I guess the larger question is how to approach this knowledge. As I have come to believing that approach to know changes or alters the knowledge itself. My teachers were competitive and interesting, and they perhaps had tried telling us what all they knew. However I feel that few factors were always acting in opposition to the entire process of knowledge acquisition.

First, it seems that the entire process of acquiring knowledge  is somewhere inflicted with a flawed notion of timing. The fact that there is a course to be finished by a particular deadline doesn’t allow much room both for students as well as teachers. Teacher wants to finish the course on time and then moves on to setting a paper for students to attempt. How rubbish! Can’t the process of knowledge acquisition be more fluid and continuous. Can’t be free from parametric identifiers of percentage and rankings?  Having time bound milestones often results in an environment which is competitive for no reasons. To make things worse, it’s not just the timing rather the valorization of being on time that kills individuals at the end. There is so much of shame associated with not being on time that it doesn’t even allow many to say NO.

Second, it seems that the teachers themselves work under a huge pressure of abiding to a particular syllabus. Any aberration from a prescribed syllabus is hugely suppressed and demotivated. The position a teacher holds, not only in the society but even with in the education system itself, doesn’t give him much power to defer to the popular notion of syllabus and prescription. There is so much of onus bestowed on people who set the syllabus rather than on those who teach the syllabus. I have seen and met few people who work as advisory members to curriculum committees and not all the time are they correct. But any communication which suggests so is seen as a wild act, often intolerable.

I am raising these questions as I still sense same forces at work. What do you guys say?

Choosing one of ‘design research’ and ‘design’!!

A few days back I was asked an interesting question. Although personal but I believe that the answer to the question is worth sharing. Somebody asked,

“Why did you decide to get into design research and leave designing?”.

One can see that it is not just one single question. While in the first half of the question one is asking for my reasons to pursue design research. Fair enough! I have written a short essay on why one should do design research. It talks about the value proposition which design research brings into the larger picture of designing communication, products and services. I would encourage you to go through this post as well.

But in the second half of the question one is assuming that either I have left designing to pursue design research or design and design research are two mutually exclusive activities. Let me assure you that it is neither of these two cases. Neither I have quit designing after deciding to carry design research nor do I think that design research and design are mutually exclusive. Even after getting involved with design research I am actively pursuing design. There are short projects that I try to handle and accomplish. Well I know you could simply discard my answer stating that it is too personal to be taken seriously. Let me then question the assumption that if one pursues design research he/she could no longer perform as a designer. I believe this is inherently an overstated and exaggerated imagination. The whole idea that research is a scientific process, based on articulation, objectivity and measurements while design is an intuitive process, fused with creativity, doodling, and life changing thoughts, is utter bogus. In fact Creativity, Objectivity, Articulation and Understanding can exist independent of disciplines and fields. And these qualities cut across the boundaries. They are as crucial for one discipline as they are for another. Also look into the areas where design has an access to. They are also evolving. May be gone were the days when a designer would be limiting his performance to print media or to graphic arts and identity design. One could claim that design was an statement on its own, capable of transforming perceptions and identities. But listen to the contemporary voices and one can realize that design has a much larger audience, and a larger reach now. Today’s design of products, communication and services rests on extensive user’s feedback. Fields like ethnography, material science, information and computer science are crucial for imagining anything ‘next’ or extending the obvious line of thinking. Thus it seems that the design research and design are complementary activities and not mutually exclusive. And, they do so by not simply supporting each other but by chasing each other.  And off course one can do both if he/ she could manage 🙂

Underlined text: What does it suggest?

Yesterday I got a book from the library. In the night around the bedtime I started reading the book. The book was newly procured so the experience of keeping it in hands and flipping through its pages was really nice. The content of the book was interesting as well. But just a few pages later I found that somebody had already underlined different paragraphs and the book was more like a graffiti site. I was pissed off to the core. I wanted to find this guy to scold him for his doing. But then there was nothing which I could have really done. I didn’t know who was he and also it wasn’t my priority either. So I had to leave this thought.

Interestingly while going through the text I realized that the mannerism of reading a book is devoid of any personal touch. It is more evident especially when the ownership of the book is with a community or an institution. You can borrow the book but you had to return it in a condition as it was never issued to anyone. How could this be possible? How can we expect everyone to be the same and then either reward them or punish them if they deviate from this expectation. Also it is often seen that the reader doesn’t underline each and every line in the book. Instead he underlines few very specific portions of the text. And if a book can be taken as a medium where an author tries to talk to his reader than perhaps these specific portions (now underlined) of the text are the moments when this talk becomes most intense. Would it be reasonable to expect this communication to simply being a monologue one? Rather it seems that every time a reader marks a certain text with a graphite underline he tries to enter into a dialogue with the author. No matter whether the reader is in agreement with authors arguments or not but he surely tries to convey that the author has written something worth listening in those lines.

Swimming isn’t simply any other sport!

Yes it seems so! Swimming isn’t simply any other sport. One can be economic and see this as an usual form of exercising, or else one can praise it as the best exercise or sport for our body. But it just doesn’t cease there. I started learning to swim almost in the beginning of summer 2002. But somehow I couldn’t follow it for more than a week or two. It is only after Jan 2011 that I could resume it back. So, although I had a prior exposure, I had to start all the way again. And after spending months in the pool I realize that swimming isn’t simply a sport, rather its altogether a different paradigm of human experience.

As soon as one enters into a pool and tries to swim, the liberty of breathing in the air vanishes. One had to acknowledge the relevance of air which she had always taken for granted and then enter into a different space. A space where one has to deploy strategies to have her cup of oxygen. Its is fairly a difficult lesson. Alongside one also gets the idea that there is a different medium to move in. To befriend a stranger one has to first take all the fears out associated with the stranger, similarly one has to befriend the water first. Even to practice a push against the wall, one is required to take her head below the water surface. Unless one comes with the psyche that she is going to befriend the water and that there isn’t going to be any harm, it would be difficult for her to do so. It is only after this friendship between oneself and water that she can learn further. Then there starts endless efforts to master the posture, and rehearse the strokes. A constant fine tuning with an awareness of one’s own action are the only instruments here. This is a fine learning too. One learns not only her limits but also the idea of ‘watch the self’. It is only after practicing again and again can one get the rhythm and pattern of body movement while breathing in and breathing out. I see a lot of people around doing all kind of stuff in water and earlier I used to gaze in awe. But now I, kind of, can reason it out. They haven’t learn swimming. What they know is to overcome their fears, and embrace a different medium. And as you can have a good time amongst your friends so can happen in water too once you befriend it. I see lifeguards raising ‘timeout alarms’ everyday to get people out of the pool 🙂